Saturday, October 3, 2009

Of those before me.

The first flush of a warm spring has faded into the more normal cold wet crappy weather that plagues attempts to complete any outdoor task. As I sit researching an article for my column in Homesteadernews, my feet cold and rain running down the window panes I am reminded of the privations of those who were here before us. (By the way if anyone knows anything about NZ roadmen please contact me, and please visit There were of course many early pre-European peoples of whom I do not pretend to know much about and so will not guess at how they lived here if indeed they ever did. It is with the early European settlers that I empathise. The backbreaking work of felling the forests for timber and pasture production. Cutting roads from the rock with only shovels and picks. All in the legendary cold wet of the NZ bushclad mountains. There was no high tech clothing to wick away the moisture, no specialist rainwear such as I use to keep me dry in all weather. Just coarse homespun woven wollen garments that must have steamed and chafed when wet and probably dispelled little water after the fisrt hour or so. What they endured when several days or even weeks of rain had passed makes me shiver. There were few  finished houses such as mine in those days. Most of the early settlers in these parts would've lived in rough bush constructions that leaked badly and had dirt floors (the building pictured would have been one of the better examples in later years of settlement). Certainly huddling by the fire on a day such as this would have been some comfort but damp bedding and mimimal space try even the most stoic of us. I've camped like that before and the trials of wet firewood, endless damp and cramped conditions had me considering acts of madness by the end of a week let alone months as have been recorded in some instances.
I guess I am somewhat in awe of those folks. Filled with a dream and hope and little else they had often sailed halfway around the world to carve out a place of their own. They had no option to return, it was do or die. Many died. Quite a number were beaten by the harsh environment or economic hardship or a combination of both. Some however perservered and succeeeded. It is these I owe such a debt of gratidude to. They fill me with optimism when the weather and the global financial crises combine. Their example of unrelenting perseverance in the face of what can only be described as soul breaking challenges humbles me and imparts a courage from beyond myself. The fruit of thier labour has set the stage for the life I now enjoy and though many complain of what they did wrong, sitting here on such a cold wet day I cannot find it within me to judge what I cannot know except from the comfort of its success.